When school opened in September, it was good to get back to the now-familiar red brick building. I was at ease there now and was well acquainted with many of my classmates. I would have all the pre-requisites for the Naval Academy examination.
I still had one elective course and I selected Journalism and joined the staff of our bi-weekly newspaper “The Columbia Log”. That one extra-curricular activity resulted in my acquaintance with an individual who became a life-long friend, Elaine Eberle. She was a junior that year and I was a senior. Even though we were not in the same Journalism class, she was also on the staff of “The Log” and we saw each other there often when we were preparing copy for the paper.
Elaine was very attractive. She was small and slim with a piquant face on which were was always a happy smile. She had long thick hair.
It was little Elaine’s personality that was truly outstanding. She iterally bubbled with vitality and enthusiasm, and she was seemingly involved in every activity in the school, most especially those having to do with writing and the arts.
Our acquaintance began, I believe, with Elaine twitting me about my typing when we were there working on copy for the paper. Her typing was smooth and she rattled words onto the page like a machine gun. My typing was very slow and uneven because I had not taken a typing course and had developed my own style like an old-time newspaper reporter—two fingers on each hand and a thumb for the space bar. It was strictly hunt and peck—and I still type that way, crudely but quite rapidly. [My father made sure I took typing and I am a fair hand. My husband’s father was a business teacher, Dave took typing, but he still pounds away with two fingers. Sigh]
I retaliated for Elaine’s comments by occasionally walking by her desk while she was busily typing and hitting the carriage release on her typewriter so it would slip to the left in the middle of a sentence. That annoyed her, of course, and I sometime got out of the door barely ahead of a flying eraser. It also resulted in our becoming fast friends and we often worked on school projects together—she directing and me doing.
It was my involvement on the school paper that, in the spring of 1939, very nearly resulted in my being suspended from school. I had been assigned by Miss Hurd, our faculty editorial advisor, to provide and editorial based on current events. The subject I selected was the worsening situation in Europe where Adolf Hitler was leading the German people to a glory that would soon become a world disaster. The war clouds were heavy over Europe and, since I fully intended to go into the military, I followed developments there quite closely.
On this occasion, I had put off writing my editorial for the paper that was to be published the next day until the last minute. A few days before I had seen a newsreel of the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, returning from a meeting at Bertchesgarten with Adolf Hitler. Chamberlain came off an airplane clutching his rolled up umbrella in one hand and waving a document with the other. He halted at a bank of microphones and made his statement that there would be “peace with honor”.
At the time, while Europe was plunging headlong into a war that would make the original World War look like a preliminary bout, the United States was a very divided nation. There were three distinct schools of thought. First there were the isolationists and pacifists who wanted peace at any price. Then there were the German sympathizers in surprising number, many of whom belonged to the German Bund. Finally, there were the “war hawks” (among whom I counted myself) who did not want war, but who felt that if Herr Hitler was not checked, war was inevitable. I did not envy Franklin Delano Roosevelt his position in the White House.
To get back to VHS, on this occasion I was to turn in an editorial after school that would be typeset that evening and would appear in the school paper the next day. At the last minute, I laboriously pounded one out on the typewriter, then went looking for Miss Hurd who was to approve all copy for the paper. She was nowhere to be found. Apparently there was sickness in her family and she had left early. Neither could I find our other faculty advisor, Mr. David Miller, and the student newspaper editor, Jean McKellar, had gone home.
I knew that I was in trouble with Miss Hurd if my editorial did not appear so, in desperation and thinking that what I had written was accurate and very timely, I made an illegible scrawl on the corner of the copy where Miss Hurd’s initials should have been. Then I trotted down to the pressroom and handed the copy to the typesetters. No one but me had seen it.
The next day, when the paper came out Elaine got one of the first copies off the press so that she could check on a Column she had written. She was a very astute young lady and was appalled when she read my editorial. She came on the double looking for me, copy of the paper in hand.
I have a yellowed old clipping of that editorial here before me. It reads:
MICE OR ME?
Out of the chaos that was Germany after the World War there has arisen a menace to world peace. We are watching today the most humiliating chain of events in history.
One man, supported by a literally hypnotized nation, is marching across Europe with disregard for national boundaries and for the feelings and rights of other people. While this is going on the nice that call themselves the great leaders of democracy are scurrying around carrying their umbrellas and squeaking for peace at any price. We all want peace but the price has already been set—and it is war.
Hitler says treaties are made to be broken. As long as he retains this scornful attitude, in the light of present affairs who will say there can still be peace with honor?
Peace with honor today?—PHOOEY!
Elaine was a voluble talker at all times and this time she ws sputtering like a thirty-caliber machine gun when she found me.
“CONRAD FRIEZE! Did Miss Hurd ever in her life approve this editorial?!”
I took the copy of The Log she was waving in my face and saw with satisfaction that it had been printed exactly as I had written it.
“We-ell, no,” I said meekly. “I got it ready late and she was already gone. Couldn’t find Miller, either. What’s wrong with it?”
“What’s WRONG?! Conrad, it is downright warmongering! You know that Mister DeYoung is a confirmed pacifist! You have heard the things he has said in assemblies about the trouble in Europe! Weren’t you paying attention? Boy oh boy, is he going to be upset!”